A GNWT image shows a firefighter at work on fire ZF015 on July 29, 2023.
There were reasons for celebration in the fight against the Behchokǫ̀ wildfire on Saturday, even as great uncertainty remains about conditions ahead.
The community is still unsafe for residents to return, but Behchokǫ̀ Chief Clifford Daniels shared a video on Saturday of pouring rain accompanied by the words, “Finally, it’s here.”
NWT Fire said a “short-lived but heavy downpour” had arrived on Saturday evening and there had been a smaller early-afternoon shower.
On Sunday morning, crews will attempt to assess the total rainfall and determine how much of a difference it made.
The fire they’re fighting, ZF015, has burned more than 100,000 hectares but has stalled at Frank Channel after a change in wind. There has been no confirmed structural damage since four homes in Rae were reported to have burned earlier in the week.
A full rundown of any structural damage to buildings along Highway 3 is expected “very soon,” NWT Fire said.
Crews also completed a successful controlled burn to remove fuel that could have led the fire toward Old Fort Rae, south of Behchokǫ̀. Mop-up work is continuing, the wildfire agency said, “to ensure the burn is secure.”
Saturday’s weather brought rain but also lightning and “volatile winds,” so there is also the prospect that new fires may have been touched off by those electrical storms.
“Fire activity picked up in the afternoon, with flare-ups seen along Highway 3 as the weather heated up fast,” NWT Fire wrote.
The wildfire is burning on both sides of the highway, which means a smoky drive for travellers heading to and from Yellowknife and Behchokǫ̀. Highway 3 remained open throughout Saturday.
Bishop Jon Hansen of Mackenzie-Fort Smith is expected in Yellowknife to celebrate Sunday mass. A special service for evacuees – who have been away from Behchokǫ̀ for almost a week – is scheduled for 2pm on Sunday at the city’s multiplex.